Bay Area African SafariSafariWestPic

The zoo is fun, but watching cute and fuzzy critters through the bars of their cages sometimes makes for a serious case of the guilties. And one can’t help but wonder if the lions and elephants feel cramped, dreaming of freedom in the wild.

For a whole different experience, try packing up your herd for a day trip to Safari West, which has been called the Sonoma Serengeti and Africa in Santa Rosa. Nestled in 400 acres of wine country, this wildlife preserve is unlike any zoo your little monkeys have ever been to.

To start with, the giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, and gazelles wandering through this natural setting roam freely through the grounds, interacting with guests for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In the spirit of a real African safari, you’ll be guided through a 3-hour tour of Safari West by jeep, when you’ll learn about all the animals there – maybe even meeting a few up close and personal.

Safari West offers year-round tours for $68 per adult, $30 for children ages 3-12, and $10 for children ages 1-2. Dedicated to raising awareness of the animals through in-person contact, the wildlife preserve propagates endangered species and runs animal conservation programs. Located at 3115 Porter Creek Road in Santa Rosa.

—Renee M. Rutledge